27 JanAbout the medical examiner position

Medical examiners are doctors that study cadavers in order to determine the cause of someone’s death or to learn more about some less known diseases. This position is definitely not for the squeamish, as the sites and smell are far from pleasant. If you are sure that this is where you want your career to go, read further to find out about the responsibilities you will have as a medical examiner, education needed as well as the average salary per year.

What are the responsibilities and duties of a medical examiner?

Also known as coroners, medical examiners have a principal role of determining the cause of someone’s death, more specifically if it occurred naturally, accidentally or intentionally (for example, if it was a homicide or suicide). If you choose this career path, you will be trained as a forensic pathologist. Consequentially, you will have to examine corpses so you can precisely determine the cause of death, acting like an anatomical pathologist and studying cells, tissue, organs, as well as bodily fluids. Using these studies, you will be able to understand diseases and causes of death better. Some of your responsibilities as a medical examiner include analyzing DNA, blood and other samples, performing autopsies, more often than not testifying in court.

What are the educational requirements for a medical examiner?

The same as any other doctor, you will have to obtain a medical degree. After obtaining the degree, you can start your residency program in pathology, after which you should finish a forensic pathology fellowship. Although many teaching hospitals offer residencies in forensic pathology, a fellowship will definitely help you in your future positions. The medical studies that are beneficial for this line of work include autopsies, pathology, toxicology, biology, radiology and phlebotomy.

As a medical examiner that performs autopsies for the police force, you may have to testify in court as an expert witness in civil and criminal trials. Furthermore, you will have to visit crime scenes and work closely with detectives. Therefore, it might be useful to take a course in criminal justice or law, as it will give you a good grasp on forensic analysis, evidence collection or chain custody.

How much does a medical examiner earn on an average?

In accordance to PayScale.com, the average annual salary of medical examiners ranged between 19,000 to 87,000 dollars on a national basis. Since medical examiners work for the county and not the state, there is a big inconsistency between salaries as the local counties have different budgets. A medical examiner’s salary is also influenced by his or her position. For instance, a higher-level coroner is known as a chief medical examiner. The chief medical examiner is the head of the department and other medical examiners report to him.

If you have a passion for solving mysteries, or learning about less known diseases, and you can not be easily intimidated, you should definitely take a medical examiner position into consideration, as the prospects for it seems to be good.